At least 80 people were killed, and more than 230 wounded, in Kabul on Saturday by suicide bombers who targeted a peaceful protest march by ethnic Hazaras, a minority Shia group in Afghanistan.
"We were holding a peaceful demonstration when I heard a bang and then everyone was escaping and yelling," Sabira Jan, a protestor who witnessed the attack and saw bloodied bodies strewn across the ground, told Reuters. "There was no one to help."
In a statement issued by its news agency, Amaq, the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group claimed responsibility for the attack – reported as the deadliest in Kabul since the U.S. invasion overthew the Taliban government in 2001.
According to the Associated Press:
If the ISIS claim is correct, the bombing would mark the first time the group has launched an attack in the Afghan capital. ISIS has been building a presence along Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan, mostly in Nangarhar province, for the past year.
President Ashraf Ghani, speaking live on television, said that Sunday would be a national day of mourning.
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Earlier, Waheed Majroeh, the head of international relations for the Ministry of Public Health, said the death toll was likely to rise "as the condition of many of the injured is very serious."
Footage on Afghan television and photographs posted on social media showed a scene of horror and carnage, with numerous bodies and body parts spread across the square.
The Guardian adds:
Hazaras have historically suffered discrimination and persecution. The protesters were marching against government plans for a major power project to bypass Bamiyan, a predominantly Hazara province in the central highlands. Following similar protests in May, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, established a commission to look into the issue but government attempts to find a compromise failed. On 19 June, a contract was signed to build a smaller electricity line through Bamiyan, which did not placate Hazara activists.
In the hours after the attack, details of casualties were unclear, but some security forces seemed to have been among the killed. As people were frantically calling friends present at the protests, calls went out on social media for blood donations to the city’s poorly resourced hospitals. “I was standing by the side of the crowd, behind an ice cream truck,” said one protester, Aman Turkmani. When the blast happened, “first the ice cream cart exploded, then he exploded. The sound of the explosion was very strong,” he said.